The Beauty and the Beast actress reveals she had an identity crisis after Harry Potter

Products in this story are independently selected and featured editorially. If you make a purchase using these links we may earn commission.

It took some time, but Emma Watson says she finally feels like a woman on the big screen.

The Beauty and the Beast actress, 26, opens up to Vanity Fair in its March issue about filming the live-action Disney movie and how it helped her take the next step in her acting career.

“When I finished the film, it kind of felt like I had made that transition into being a woman on-screen,” she says, adding that Belle is “absolutely a Disney princess, but she’s not a passive character — she’s in charge of her own destiny.”

The actress was instrumental in giving the Disney princess a more feminist edge, insisting that certain aspects be changed so she feels more modern. “I was like, ‘The first shot of the movie cannot be Belle walking out of this quiet little town carrying a basket with a white napkin in it,’ ” she says. “‘We need to rev things up!’”

In the original animated film, Belle assists her father with his many inventions, but for the live-action film, Watson helped change her character so that she is an inventor herself. The character is working on a “modern washing machine that allows her to sit and read” in this version, thanks to Watson.

Credit: Tim Walker exclusively for Vanity Fair

The actress also gets candid about her struggles post-Potter to find herself after gaining fame at just 11 years old. While she thought about quitting acting as a whole, she realized that it was the career she wanted as long as she had more control over her actions. This led to her turning down roles that didn’t feel right, and only starring in small projects since the last Potter film in 2011.

“There have been hard moments in my career when I’ve had an agent or a movie producer say, ‘You are making a big mistake,’ ” Watson says about turning down roles — including Emma Stone‘s Oscar-winning character in La La Land. “But what’s the point of achieving great success if you feel like you’re losing your freakin’ mind? I’ve had to say, ‘Guys, I need to go back to school,’ or ‘I just need to go home and hang out with my cats.’ People have looked at me and been like, ‘Is she insane?’ But, actually, it’s the opposite of insane.”

Credit: Tim Walker exclusively for Vanity Fair

And her past experiences with fame have also led her to value her privacy — especially when it comes to her boyfriend of over a year, tech manager William “Mack” Knight.

In the interview, the actress — who doesn’t name Knight — explains her decision to not talk about her personal life publicly.

“I want to be consistent: I can’t talk about my boyfriend in an interview and then expect people not to take paparazzi pictures of me walking around outside my home. You can’t have it both ways,” she says. “I’ve noticed, in Hollywood, who you’re dating gets tied up into your film promotion and becomes part of the performance and the circus. I would hate anyone that I were with to feel like they were in any way part of a show or an act.”

Beauty and the Beast hits theaters March 17.